A nation under our feet: Black Panther, Afrofuturism and the potential of thinking through political structures

  • Bibi Burger Department of Afrikaans, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9483-6671
  • Laura Engels Department of Dutch Literature, University of Ghent (Ghent Centre for Afrikaans and the Study of South Africa), Ghent, Belgium
Keywords: A nation under our feet, Afrofuturism, Black Panther, comic books, ideology, social criticism, Ta-Nehisi Coates


In this article, the focus is on Black Panther: a nation under our feet, a comic book series written by American public intellectual Ta-Nehisi Coates. The point of departure is Coates’s idea of ‘the Mecca’, a term he uses in his earlier nonfiction. It refers to a space in which black culture is created in the shadow of collective traumas and memories. We argue that in a nation under our feet the fictional African country of Wakanda functions as a metaphorical Mecca. This version of Wakanda is contextualised in terms of the aesthetics of Afrofuturism and theories on the influence of ideology in comic books. The central focus of the article is how this representation of Wakanda questions the idea of a unified black people and how Wakanda, like the real world Meccas described by Coates, display internal ideological and political struggles among its people. We argue that the various characters in a nation under our feet represent different and conflicting ideological positions. These positions are metaphors for real world political views and in playing out the consequences of these ideologies, Coates explores African and global political structures without didactically providing conclusive answers to complex issues.